ST. GEORGE — A group of aviation enthusiasts put on an unannounced show over the Southern Utah skies as a group of air racers and other “homebuilt” aircraft flyers flew formations and practiced air stunts out of St. George Regional Airport over the weekend.

Homebuilt airplanes fly in formation over St. George Regional Airport while an American Eagle commuter plane is parked nearby, St. George, Utah, Feb. 24, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Gerry Dauphinais. St. George News

Gerry Dauphinais with the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum said a group of 17 amateur-built or maintained aircraft were in St. George to practice formation flying and air show-type movements.

“They were from all around the west,” Dauphinais said, adding they weren’t affiliated with the museum. “It was their first visit to St. George.”

Some posts on social media over the weekend speculated that futuristic-looking planes were flying over town this past weekend. Others talked of World War II fighters soaring overhead.

And neither was wrong.

Dauphinais said some of the planes were of the experimental variety, including at least three Rutan Long-EZ planes characterized by their backward look with a rear propeller and backward-facing wings. The planes were designed by Burt Rutan known for designing both the Voyager — the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling — and SpaceshipOne, which was the first privately funded spacecraft to reach space.

At the same time, there were some modern homebuilts painted to look like World War II-vintage planes in the formation, including the “Sarahndipity” Van’s RV-8 plane painted like a P-51 Mustang that has been a repeat finalist at the annual air races in Reno, Nevada. 

A formation of homebuilt airplanes fly over St. George Regional Airport, St. George, Utah, Feb. 24, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Gerry Dauphinais. St. George News

But contrary to some speculation on the internet, the aircraft were not drones and all had human pilots and/or passengers.   

The term “homebuilt aircraft” doesn’t necessarily mean that someone went into their backyard, got some plywood, fabric, metal and plastic and made a plane. According to the Experiment Aircraft Association, which consists of homebuilt aircraft enthusiasts, a homebuilt aircraft is defined as being built or are a renovation of an old airframe by someone for whom it is not a professional activity. 

They can either be built from scratch, from plans, from assembly kits or be retrofits of existing airplanes. 

Many of the planes at St. George’s airport and over the local skies this weekend were made from kits by Van’s Aircraft, according to the Federal Aviation Administration registry for the planes.

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